Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Shoney's Comeback vs. Sonic

I don't know how many of my Northeast readers are familiar with Shoney's, the restaurant chain that was once coast to coast. I knew about it from living in the South. When my son was young, we went on several vacations in Virginia and ate at the Shoney's wherever we were. They were noted for their buffets, and I must admit secret longings for grits, chicken fried steak, and biscuits and gravy.

However, it seemed that each time we went down south, there were fewer and fewer Shoney's and the food was worse and worse. The last time we ate at a Shoney's was when we stayed at a Shoney's Inn in Winchester, VA earlier this "century". Not only was the food inedible but the Inn was...well, it was not anywhere I would ever stay again. And not only that, but we ate our free breakfast under the watchful eye of guards...I mean, staff, who made it feel like you were eating breakfast in prison, not in a motel.

So much for a business that had once been an "institution". Sad.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the attempted turnaround of Shoney's under the leadership of their latest CEO David Davoudpour. I wish them luck, as too many chains have gone under in recent years. But it would take a lot of convincing to get me to ever stay in a Shoney's Inn or eat in a Shoney's. A pity.

Now contrast this with Sonic, the southern drive-in style chain, complete with carhops wearing roller skates. They've been heading further and further north and west and recently opened a location in Binghamton. They've had quite the reception here complete with traffic jams. We went there today-friendly staff. The food is...well it is a drive-in. The drinks are a specialty and the shakes were very good. I look forward to going back and having a limeade. If I am on the road, it is lunchtime and I pass a Sonic, I will definitely think about stopping.

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